What Happens When Kids Age Out of Foster Care?

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teens boys leaning on wall aged out of foster care
"Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” - Josh Shipp

This is a question not many people have ever thought of asking. For most people, your 18th birthday is an exciting event. It’s your mile marker of crossing from childhood to adulthood – it’s a milestone in your life. Conversely, most people don’t realize how traumatic an 18th birthday can be for a child in foster care. It is not an event that they have been looking forward to. It’s an event they have been dreading.

For many kids in foster care, on their 18th birthday, they will need to pack up all their belongings, move out of wherever they have been living, and be on their own – on their birthday! That challenge can be daunting, and that trauma can last a lifetime.

Questions and Statistics

Below you’ll find a few statistics about kids who age out of foster care from the National Youth Foster Institute. But before you look at those statistics, consider these questions.

  1. Why do kids even stay in foster care until they turn 18?
  2. Why aren’t they reunified with their parents or a family member?
  3. Why aren’t they adopted out of foster care?

The simple answer is that we, the Capital “C” Church were not there when kids needed us. Here is a simple phrase that I heard many years ago from Josh Shipp, a foster care alumni himself, “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” And it’s not just Josh Shipp who believes this, Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child released a study saying, “Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.” And God’s Word in Proverbs tells us:

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

Proverbs 22:6 NIV

The Stats

  • More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year.
  • After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
  • There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.

There is Hope

These statistics look bad, no doubt, but there is hope!

“And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:3-5 NASB

Hope! That is the difference maker! And it’s hope in the Lord! A true understanding that God loves you He has a plan for you! And no matter what has happened to you – there is still hope!

The Value of Every Life

This issue has become very personal to one family. This entire topic relates to how we as the Body of Christ see the value of a child, the value of a teen, the value of every life. This couple became very involved in the pro-life movement because they saw their pastor sacrificially step out of his comfort zone to raise awareness of the issue of abortion. This couple was your average church-going family, but they decided to get involved, to step out of their comfort zone and do something. The wife began to serve as a counselor in a center for women considering abortion. The husband volunteered in many different grassroots efforts to raise awareness of the abortion issue.

Will you be there for us?

Then one Sunday after church – they, along with many others from their church, went out to street corners throughout the community just to hold up signs in an attempt to make the community aware of the issue. Their signs were simple but true, “A baby’s heart starts beating 22 days after conception.” As people drove by or stopped at the traffic light, many honked horns in approval, and many others shared their dislike by yelling or other means.

But one couple stopped at the traffic light, and the young lady in the passenger seat looked at the lady holding the sign straight in her eyes and said, “If I keep my baby, will you be there for me?” The young women looked at both of them and said, “If we keep this baby, will your church be there for us?” And with that, the light changed to green, and they sped off. That couple holding the signs looked at each other and began to weep, uncontrollably weep. They immediately understood that there was so much more to do around this issue than just holding signs than just stopping an abortion.

Aha! Moment

In this “aha moment,” they realized something that soon after became their life mission. They realized that every single child who entered the foster care system had parents who chose life! But, for whatever reason, they lost custody of their children to the state. And this couple then realized that the Capital “C” Church should be there for every child and every young adult in the system.

couple praying about foster care

The couple wasn’t exactly sure what to do next, but they Prayed. They Listened for the voice of God. And when they heard His direction, they Obeyed Willingly – they PLOWed through. And their lives have been forever changed in many amazing ways. That couple has now been engaged in foster care since 1994 and has fostered 57 children and young adults. That couple is my wife Linda and I. We both work at 4KIDS now using our gifts, talents, and treasures to mobilize and support the Body of Christ in this work because being pro-life does not stop when the child is born. It continues for as long as is needed.

Providing Hope

At 4KIDS, our mission, “Providing Hope… For Kids In Crisis,” is about being pro-life after the child is born! We provide hope for children, young adults, foster and adoptive parents, and biological family members of children in foster care. This is what we do. This is who we are! We provide hope! We offer hope by building relationships, by “being there” for kids and young adults when they need us by guiding them through uncertainty and helping them all to see a better future for themselves. Also, we build and maintain relationships that we pray will last a lifetime – we become family for young adults who, for whatever reason, have lost their family.

So, what about you? You, too, can be that “one caring adult” in a child’s life. You too can help lead a child from a path of despair to a path of hope. So, I pray you, too, will PLOW through and be a difference make in someone’s life.

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